Tag: GYA13

GYA16: Hiking Up Elephant Mountain 象山步道

Itinerary: Elephant Mountain 象山, Coco Curry, Ice Monster, Shin Kong Mitsubishi

The weather is turning warmer once again after a few days of rain last week.  It was so sunny this morning when I went out to buy some hash browns for my weekly pancake breakfast, I decided we ought to go hiking!  I’d been wanting to go to 象山 for 3 years ever since I saw my cousin’s post about hiking up there to get a free view of Taipei and Taipei 101.

We took MRT to the end of red line and followed the directions to 象山.  Thankfully, we chose the 20 minute hike instead of 40 minute one.  Because, wow, it’s basically a series of steep stairs!

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GYA13: What’s Popular in Taiwan Now #2

Though I only read online papers at home, I tend to get a newspaper every day when I’m in Taiwan.  However, during my last trip, I realized this is how you can get really depressed about where you live.  Because the news is often bad or depressing.  There is constant talk about the economy and the struggles of the people who don’t earn much (22k avg salary/month!), or little scandals get blown up and discussed endlessly by local media.  

Many of my friends who live in the US but go back to visit often talk about how great it is to live in Taipei.   But when you read the endless depressing news for 3 months, you start feeling anxious about life.  By the end, I felt like the city was a great place to visit but not a great place to earn a living.  In a way, it’s no different than reading/listening/watching media in the US.  

Given we’ve now past the time we typically go home and are now settled into more of a routine where we don’t sight see every day, I wanted to talk more about our experience so far and the little encounters we’ve had.

1. People like to give the kids candies. We’ve gotten candies from taxi cab drivers, teachers, restaurant workers, strangers we meet. Some of them smell funky.  We almost always toss them after the fact.  One thing people say is that the Taiwanese people are very friendly, and that is true.

2. Unlike last time, fewer people are asking if the kids are mixed. I see a lot more hapa kids in general too. Probably because we’re living close to 3 universities with lots of foreigners learning English here. In fact we get more people asking if Thumper is an older brother and how old they are. She has taken to covering her hair up with her hat.

There are so many places to learn Chinese for overseas children here.  But so far, NTUE sounds interesting.  Mandarin Kids newspaper also has summer and winter camps.  I like NTUE as it’s an University of Education.  If we do camps in the summer, I’m going to try them.

3. Some cultural differences I have needed to adjust to: paying at the counter, no toilet paper at public restrooms, and drinks coming at the end of the meal instead of during the meal. The paper napkin situation is funky too. It often is in a dispenser on the wall. On the other hand, not having to tip is very nice.

At quick service restaurants, there are usually slips of papers similar to dim sum restaurants, where you mark what you want, then give it to the owner.  I’m still getting used to that as I don’t usually notice them.

4.  Food Safety and environmental violations
I read about food safety violations, environmental violations, and lots of real estate ads. There has been a lot of violations in food safety recently. I’d thought that things had improved from when I was a child. I remember mom always telling me not to eat out. But people substitute cow milk in goat powdered milk, add things to cooking oil they’re not supposed to, recall bad flour and then repackage them to resell, add things to cooking oil they’re not supposed to.

I see lots and lots of packages that tout how their food is safe.  There are CSAs here as well.  Reading about food safety really freaks you out as it makes me wonder about the food I eat.

How it’s different from living in the US.

Given how much I like to eat, the biggest difference for me is the availability of food late at night.  The kids have gained some weight and I’m sure I have too.  I realized just how much sugar we’ve been consuming compared to the US.  Here, we would have dinner, have fruit after, then have some after dinner dessert from a store such as red bean soup or tofu pudding in sweet ginger soup.  In the day the kids drink their yukult or have some sugary snack.

It’s so easy to buy ready made food here.  But I think that this is why, despite Taipei being aggressive about recycling, it actually produces a lot of plastic food waste.  Everytime we go to 7-11, we’re mostly buying plastic wrapped products.  Take outs are often in a plastic bag, or paper boxes carried in a plastic bag.  We get plastic spoons for each red bean soup we buy.   Thank goodness the Taipei government passed those mandates years ago.

I’m slowly cutting our sugar consumption back and eating in general.  TOO MUCH GOOD food and I tend to eat like it’s the last time I’m going to have it.  On top of that, I do much prefer Chinese food desserts and snacks.  My big vice.

Overall I don’t find prices that much cheaper than the US, especially the more western stuff. If you want pasta it’s $5+. Sometimes closer to $10. Taxis sure are $4 for quick trips one way. But they add up quickly if you take it all the time.  MRT start at $0.75 one way, cheap but it also adds up in a city when/if you take the MRT often.

But I find Taipei a great place to live, probably because I’m not making a living here. Since I don’t live here, I see the fruits of planning without waiting and it always seems like such great progress. I love the fact that there are bike stations next to the MRT. This just got put in this year. The MRT itself is fantastic.

We have not done too many touristy things yet.  And I havn’t done the shopping and bookstore browsing that I used to do when I visited.  I’m glad I’m taking a long visit because I’ve discovered that I’m a slow traveler.

GYA13: What’s popular in Taiwan now #1

I guess life got boring after I got over my initial shock at living in another country and we settled down into our swim and zhuyin class.  This post was a whole week later than the previous one and I didn’t talk about what we were doing at all.  I think it was around this time that we got mighty sick for 3-4 days, with a high fever and lethargy, one after another.  

The kids almost always catch a foreign bug when they visit.  I bring ever more remedies and medications each time I visit. 

We’ve been here almost 3 weeks. Since we haven’t been doing much I thought I’d write down some of our daily encounters, impressions, and also what’s hot in Taiwan now. There are always waves of what’s popular, like how egg tarts were so hot 10 years ago you see them selling everywhere.

What’s HOT

1.  Soft Serve.

Taiwan’s latest food craze is apparently soft serves.  Please don’t ask me why.  It’s not Pink Berry yogurt kind, those those are apparently here too.  But more like the ones you see at McDonalds.  You can buy them at 7-11 or really, just anywhere.  I’m not sure what’s so great, though we’ve tried a few of them so far.

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GYA13: Taipei Public Library and Good Food

What I remembered about the Main Taipei Library was how the librarian really wants you to be very quiet.  This was a big contrast to our local libraries here, where you can speak in a normal voice.  It did not make me want to go back often, the feeling that you really need to be conscious about being quiet.

Itinerary: Library, Vegetarian dinner

Today was a rest day where we pretty much spent it like how we spend out days back home.  The kids went to bed really late and woke up really late (9am).  I woke up early to catch up on my computer and make phone calls to the US.  Skype is great!

GYA13The kids got a hot chocolate and scrambled eggs breakfast.  And then had brunch yet again when my aunt got up and cooked up porridge brunch breakfast.  They had whole bowls too.

I have to say, my aunt makes great food that reminds me of my mom and the kids have loved everything they cook.  They’d eat/drink things that they wouldn’t touch when I cook it.

After breakfast, they horsed around while I caught up some more on my computer before I decided they were making a rukus and we all walked to the Taipei library.  We went to the kids floor (B1) and got many books on insects.

Thumper wanted to find out why it itches when mosquitos bite.  I finally figured out where all the picture books are.  Though the library is also a Dewey system, everything is by numbers, even fiction.  So picture books are in the 800 section.
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GYA13: Vaccination shot and Zhuyin class

Ahhh, the vac shots, such a traumatic experience.  Thumper has never cried so long and so hard since her vac shot in Taiwan.  They’re totally no non-sense in the health clinic.  Because of it she was more adamant about not getting a shot.  When we next got our shot in the US, it was breezy and no tears, because of the nurse’s attitude.  At instances like this, I’m very much aware that my kids are very American in their upbringing. 

I’m oh so glad Thumper’s now past the phase of crying at every single new class/encounter.  It is one developmental period I wouldn’t like to repeat.

Itinerary:  Vaccination shot, some Taiwanese food, zhuyin class

Have I mentioned that Taipei has been raining non-stop for the last week?  The weather has also turned cold, in the 50’s.  We did not bring enough wintery clothes with us.  I will need to somehow find the time to go shopping for some jackets.  In the meantime, this rain is driving me nuts.

My friends had told me it’s rains alot and wondered why I wanted to go back in December.  I said as long as it’s warm it’s fine.  And it is.  But one thing I didn’t count on was that we drive everywhere in the US.  So in a way the rain doesn’t bother us.  But here, you’re constantly whipping out your umbrella and really feeling the weather and wetness.
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GYA13: Getting a Medical Exam

So the moral of the story for getting residency?  Don’t wait till your kids are past 6.  So many more hoops they have to jump.

Itinerary: medical exam, grocery shopping, swimming lesson.

The days are slowly starting to blur together now that the kids have adjusted their sleep somewhat.  Now we’re going to sleep at 10pm every night, and getting up at 8-9am, which is a bit late.  It keeps all the adults up having to entertain them.  So I’m going to try and get them to sleep earlier.

GYA13 Taipei continues to rain rain rain nonstop, and I don’t feel like doing much.  Except that there isn’t much to do at home either so we have to go out or else everyone goes crazy and watches too much TV.

The first stop today was a medical exam at 和平醫院 (He Ping Hospital).  I was going to go on Wednesday but then thinking we had to have a stool sample, delayed it.  We need the medical exam in order to be a resident here.

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GYA13: Shopping for rainboots

The 雜貨店 was my favorite store in Taipei and one I tell everyone to go to.  Everything you ever need, other than food, is there crammed into 4 stories.   It’s right down the street from the Technology Station MRT.  This is where I bought our rain boots, all of ours stationary supplies, our ID holders, our piggie banks, and ultimately my tea set.  

Itinerary: Rainboots, New Cellphone, “organic” milk

Today was a shopping day, something I’d been meaning to do for days and days.  With 2 kids, it takes a whole day to shop.

Our first stop today was at the local 雜貨店.  I don’t know the English words for it.  It’s kind of like a Daiso.  We went looking for some rain gear since it’s been raining so much and the kids don’t hold their umbrellas correctly.  After trying on numerous pairs of shoes, we settled on a pink pair of rainboots for Astroboy (he wanted that color).

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GYA13: Department of Health & Swimming

I keep forgetting why we only end up with 1-2 activities a day max when we were in Taiwan.  Because we kept stopping to have a snack or lunch or snack!

Itinerary: Department of Health,  Swimming

It continues to rain rain rain here, non-stop.  The kids no longer find novelty in holding an umbrella and walking long distances.  We’ve yet to purchase rainboots and raincoats so it makes every outing a nagging session (“hold the umbrella right”, “don’t step in the puddles!”), which I’m sure is not helping.

I decided we needed to get started on getting residency, given how many surprises I’ve encountered each time I try to do something related to this.  The first top is the local Department of Health to translate their vaccination records into Chinese.  Taipei is carved into districts and each district apparently has its own health department, kind of cool.  Ours happen to be super close, just a 15 minute walk with kids.

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GYA13: Daan Park, Swimming

 Taking swim lessons was one of my least favorite part about the trip, in hindsight.  It gave me a taste of what fairly traditional teachers, and parents, are like.  I was so surprised at how often I heard different parents say, “The children need a teacher who are mean stern to toe them in line.  Because look at how they don’t behave otherwise.  They ride all over the teacher.”  

There are definite differences in expectations in appropriate children behavior.  And for some of these parents, a stern teacher equates to a good teacher.  

I’ve since heard from a fellow swimmer friend from Taiwan that there are different systems of learning to swim in Taiwan and the teachers in these teaching schools tend to be a bit more old school than say, YMCA.

Itinerary: Daan Park, Citibank, Shaved Ice, Swimming lesson

Our daily life has settled into a routine where I try to do one adult event, be it shopping or getting residency) and one child fun event.  Today the adult event was getting a bank acct, cellphone, and milk.  But, I only managed one of those thing.

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GYA13: Hsin Yi Kids Park

Funnily, after this one indoor play area, I never went to another except once at the top of a department store.  

Itinerary: Hsin Yi Kids Park, curry

Today was a rainy day so I decided to look for an indoor play area.  I found this great website that gives you the lowdown on places to go in Taiwan, mostly Taipei.  They’re on Facebook too.

1.1387178001.ball-poolThere were a lot of cool sounding places, like a Toy Museum, and the Science and Technology museum.  But since it was raining pretty hard, I decided to go by taxi to somewhere close, Hsin Yi Kids Park.  It’s right in the basement of the Hsin Yi publishing company bookstore.  What sold me was the sheer amount of disinfecting they do.

The “park” itself is basically 5 main areas, a huge reading room that noone really went to, an empty space that parks toy cars and is where you have music time, two areas devoted to motor skills like puzzles or thematic activities, and a huge gross motor skill area which features a ball pool.  Ball pools seem to be the thing for most indoor play areas here.  And there are so many too.  I can’t quite imagine Studio Grow having such an area.

We had our temperature taken and our hands sprayed with alcohol before we went in.  The kids went straight for the plastic ball pool.  We paid $250/person to stay there for all 3 “sessions”.  Each session is 2 hours long with half hour disinfecting time, and limited to 50 families.  However, we only stayed from 10 to 2 or so.  I got really bored just watching the kids play.  GYA13

They mostly played with the pool, and some of the fine motor toys.  It was pretty full in the morning with a lot of young children but less so in the afternoon.  What was neat was that the theme this time was the “Barefoot King“, which is a newly published.  So they had activities from the book, like walking on stilts.

During the time the park was closed, we went looking for food down the street.  Thumper wanted curry instead of potstickers, so we tried this place called Ebisu.  I was hesitant because it featured items such as cheese and chicken curry and yogurt and mushroom curry, which we ordered.  It came with cut up slices of cheese right on top.  Strange I say.  But at the end of the day, tastes just like curry and the kids wolfed it down.

Anyways, after I dragged the kids away at 2 something, we came home and I forced everyone to take a nap.  It took some doing and they all slept till 6pm.  We then had another delicious dinner by Aunty.  (I must take a picture one day).  My third aunt came and brought some toys.  (yay!) and Thumper is now learning how to read the chinese characters off of Chinese Chess.  Hopefully my uncle will be able to teach her how to play because it’s been awhile for me.